Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arizona Border Violence a Myth

One of the Nations Safest Corridors

In the wake of U.S. District Judge Susan Block's recent decision striking down important provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law new data confirms that increasing violence in Arizona is a myth. Two months ago, I wrote about the blatantly false pretenses under which Arizona's immigration law was enacted, Arizona Ignores Facts, Attacks Immigration.

Governor Jan Brewer said that the principle reason for enacting immigration law was, "the border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration." Time Magazine again makes the argument that the towns along the Mexican border represent, "one of the nations safest corridors."

Below is an excerpt from the Time article. If you trying to make sense out of what is going on in Arizona it is worth reading.

According to the FBI, the four large U.S. cities (with populations of at least 500,000) with the lowest violent crime rates — San Diego, Phoenix and the Texas cities of El Paso and Austin — are all in border states. "The border is safer now than it's ever been," U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Lloyd Easterling told the Associated Press last month. Even Larry Dever, the sheriff of Arizona's Cochise County, where the murder last March of a local rancher, believed to have been committed by an illegal immigrant, sparked calls for the law, conceded to the Arizona Republic recently that "we're not seeing the [violent crime] that's going on on the other side."

Consider Arizona itself — whose illegal-immigrant population is believed to be second only to California's. The state's overall crime rate dropped 12% last year; between 2004 and 2008 it plunged 23%. In the metro area of its largest city, Phoenix, violent crime — encompassing murder, rape, assault and robbery — fell by a third during the past decade and by 17% last year. The border city of Nogales (south of Tuscon), an area rife with illegal immigration and drug trafficking, hasn't logged a single murder in the past two years.

The rampant violence in Mexico has not spilled across the border. The best example is El Paso, Texas. According to Time, its cross-border Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juárez, suffered almost 2,700 murders last year, most of them drug-related, making it possibly the world's most violent town. But El Paso, a stone's throw across the Rio Grande, had just one murder.

Governor Brewer, Senator McCain and Sheriff Arpaio need to visit El Paso.

To read more:,8816,2007474,00.html

Friday, July 30, 2010

Arizona Dealt Setback in Immigration Efforts

Arizona officials received a setback this week in their controversial effort to crack down on illegal immigration. A ruling this week by a federal judge put on hold parts of the new law that would have required police officers to enforce illegal immigration.

The provisions blocked by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton included one requiring a police officer to determine the immigration status of a person detained or arrested if the officer believed the person was not in the country legally.

Bolton also halted provisions requiring immigrants to carry their papers at all times and making it illegal for people without proper documents to tout for work in public places.

According to Reuters News Service, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said she would file an appeal to reinstate the provisions, which had popular support but were opposed by President Barack Obama and immigration and human rights groups.

"This fight is far from over," Brewer said, adding that "at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens."

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the law three months ago to try to drive nearly half a million illegal immigrants out of Arizona with the factually inaccurate suggestion that illegal immigrants are driving up crime and making the Mexican border a virtual war zone.

To read more:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Execution in "Lawless" South Dakota

Only 13 Recorded Executions in South Dakota

This week while visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota I stopped by the once lawless town of Deadwood. The town near the border of Wyoming was a gold mining boom town of the late nineteenth century. Deadwood was known for it saloons, brothels and outlaws. Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back at the No. 10 Saloon holding his hand of aces and eights--forever known as the deadman's hand.

Deadwood was also the backdrop of the the critically acclaimed HBO series Deadwood. With all of this frontier lawlessness I was interested in the history of the death penalty in South Dakota.

The first execution in the Dakota Territory was that of the "Coward Jack McCall" the man who shot Hickok. He was initially acquitted by a makeshift jury shortly after the murder. He was later apprehended in Wyoming after bragging about the murder. He was tried in a "real" territorial court and hanged March 1, 1877.

Since McCall there have only been 12 executions in "lawless" South Dakota. An execution that garnered a lot of attention was that of John B. Lehman in Custer County, near Hill City. Lehman killed a constable serving a warrant in July of 1889. He was tried three times and his execution was delayed by legal maneuvering. During a time when executions were often carried out in months sometimes weeks after the murder, Lehman wasn't executed until February 19, 1892, two and a half years after the murder.

More than half of the the executions in South Dakota occurred between 1882 and 1887.
Hanging was the only method of execution used until 1915 when death penalty was temporary abolished. Since 1915, there have only been two executions.

The death penalty was reinstated in 1933 and the electric chair became the sole method of execution. Only one person was electrocuted in South Dakota. The electric chair was used in 1947. That was the last execution for 60 years.

The most recent execution in South Dakota was in 2007. Elijah Page was executed on July 12, 2007. He plead guilty to the brutal murder of Chester Allen Poage. Two other men were involved in the crime. One was sentenced to life in prison, the other is on death row.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, Page spent his final day in a holding cell near the execution chamber. He had several visitors including family members and friends. Around 6 p.m., Page ate his last meal. He requested steak, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, a salad and ice cream.

At 9:40, guards removed Page from his holding cell and transferred him to a gurney. He wore a prison-issued orange jumpsuit and white socks. Guards restrained Page with a leather strap across his chest and around each arm and leg. An I-V was inserted into each arm.

Warden Doug Weber asked Page if he had any last words. Page said "No." Warden Weber said, "Do I understand you to say you have no last words?" Inmate Page said, "Yes, no last words."

The lethal injections began at 10:02 p.m. and were finished at 10:04 p.m. An EMT pronounced Elijah Page dead at 10:11 p.m.

To read more about Page's Execution:

Japan Executes Two Killers

The First Executions Since 2009

Japan Today reported that the Japanese government hanged two death row inmates this week in the first executions under the new Democratic Party of Japan government.

The two are Kazuo Shinozawa, 59, who was accused of murder in 2000 involving six female clerks at a jewelry store in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, and Hidenori Ogata, 33, who was responsible for killing a man and woman and seriously injuring two others in Saitama Prefecture in 2003, according to the Justice Ministry.

The executiions were carried out at the Tokyo Detention Center. In Japan, executions are carried out in secret, inmates are not informed of their execution dates, and their families are not informed until after the execution.

The Japanese Justice Minister attended the executions. While declining to comment on her personal views opposing the death penalty, the justice minister expressed readiness to establish a panel to study the death penalty.

To read more:

Superior Court to Hear 11-year-old's Appeal

The Pennsylvania Law Weekly reported that the Superior Court will hear the appeal of a decision to try 12-year-old Jordan Brown as an adult in the shooting death of his father's pregnant fiancee.

The state Superior Court on Tuesday granted a defense request to review the decision by Lawrence County Judge Dominick Motto.

Prosecutors allege that Brown, who was 11-years-old at the time,shot 26-year-old Kenzie Houk with a 20-gauge shotgun as she slept in their New Beaver farmhouse in February 2009. Her unborn son, who was nearly full-term, also died.

Motto said in March that Brown was unlikely to be rehabilitated in the juvenile system. Conviction as an adult on a first- or second-degree murder charge would mean a mandatory life sentence without parole. If the case is moved to juvenile court, the state could not hold him beyond his 21st birthday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SF Police Pilot Civilian Investigators

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón has proposed a pioneering and controversial test program included in the city's new budget that will use civilian investigators to respond to nonviolent crimes like burglaries or car break-ins.

"This is really about re-engineering policing," Gascón told the San Francisco Chronicle. He started developing the idea about five years ago after learning about the use of civilian police in Great Britain. "It's a program that I believe will increasingly become the model around the country."

Gascón described the program to the Chronicle as victim friendly. Rather than making victims wait indefinitely, civilian investigators could schedule an appointment over the phone for a set time. Civilian staff wouldn't be called away for a crime in progress and would also be trained to offer crime prevention tips.

The program, modeled on one Gascón introduced while chief in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona, before being hired in San Francisco last year, comes as the chief expects 78 officers to retire this year, positions the city doesn't have the money to fill. Civilian investigators can be hired with salaries ranging from $47,000 to $57,000 a year, compared with base salaries ranging from $88,000 to $110,000 a year for police officers, according to the Chronicle.

Civilians are also cheaper to equip. In Mesa, the civilian investigators drive unmarked cars and carry handheld radios and pepper spray, rather than carrying guns, wearing bulletproof vests or driving outfitted patrol cars.

Not everyone agrees with the idea of civilian investigators. Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association told the Chronicle, "I am in no way in support of civilians going out and doing that," Delagnes said. "Let's say they go to a 3-day-old burglary, dust for fingerprints, take a report and all of a sudden they find out the guy who committed that burglary was a serial murderer. You're going to have a civilian who has to testify in court in a murder trial, and it's going to be a mess."

To read more:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Liptak Assesses Direction of U.S. Supreme Court

Adam Liptak of the New York Times wrote a lengthy article on the U.S. Supreme Court
as it goes into its summer recess and through the fifth year of the Roberts Court. Below are excerpts from the article. If you are an ardent Supreme Court watcher or are just interested in the direction our country may be going--Roberts appears to be heading for a long and active career on the Court--it is worth a read.

From the New York Times:

Chief Justice Roberts, 55, is settling in for what is likely to be a very long tenure at the head of a court that seems to be entering a period of stability.

If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.

The recent shift to the right is modest. And the court’s decisions have hardly been uniformly conservative. The justices have, for instance, limited the use of the death penalty and rejected broad claims of executive power in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.

But scholars who look at overall trends rather than individual decisions say that widely accepted political science data tell an unmistakable story about a notably conservative court.

With regard to individual rights in criminal cases Liptak explored the implications of former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor replacement with Justice Samuel Alito. Liptak wrote:

Just weeks before she left the court, for instance, Justice O’Connor heard arguments in Hudson v. Michigan, a case about whether evidence should be suppressed because it was found after Detroit police officers stormed a home without announcing themselves.

“Is there no policy protecting the homeowner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?” Justice O’Connor asked a government lawyer. David A. Moran, a lawyer for the defendant, Booker T. Hudson, said the questioning left him confident that he had Justice O’Connor’s crucial vote.

Three months later, the court called for reargument, signaling a 4-to-4 deadlock after Justice O’Connor’s departure. When the 5-to-4 decision was announced in June, the court not only ruled that violations of the knock-and-announce rule do not require the suppression of evidence, but also called into question the exclusionary rule itself.

The shift had taken place. Justice Alito was in the majority.

“My 5-4 loss in Hudson v. Michigan,” Mr. Moran wrote in 2006 in Cato Supreme Court Review, “signals the end of the Fourth Amendment” — protecting against unreasonable searches — “as we know it.”

To read more:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Support for Death Penalty on the Rise

Support for the death penalty has increased in America’s largest state. California, with more than 44-million people, saw a recent 3-percent increase in support for capital punishment.

A recent survey of registered voters found 70-percent backed capital punishment, up from 67-percent in the last statewide poll in 2006. Twenty-four percent opposed the death penalty and 6-percent had no opinion.

A smaller number of voters were asked which sentence they preferred for a first-degree murderer, 42-percent said life in prison without parole and 41-percent said death. Another 13- percent said it would depend on the circumstances, and 4-percent had no opinion.

The 13-percent should probably been included with the 41-percent favoring death. In the past, when survey participants have been asked about specific cases like Timothy McVeigh or Saddam Hussein support for the death penalty rose above 80-percent. With a margin of error of approximately 5-percent support for the death penalty over life in prison could be as high as 59-percent.

The survey was conducted by telephone between June 22 and July 5. The question on support for capital punishment was asked of 1,390 voters; 485 of them were asked the question about the death penalty vs. life in prison for murderers.

Field Corporation said the margin of error was 2.8 percentage points on the death penalty question and 4.6 percentage points for the question on preferred sentences.

To read more:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Texas Commission: No Negligence or Misconduct in Willingham Trial

Texas Forensic Science Commission members said they believed there was insufficient evidence to establish whether investigators were negligent or guilty of misconduct in their 1991 investigation of the fire that killed Cameron Todd Willingham's three daughters.

At the time, investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office had ruled that the blaze was an arson started by an accelerant. Willingham, 36, was later convicted of murder for setting the blaze and executed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Commissioners authorized the four-member committee to write a draft report reflecting their findings to be acted on later this summer. The panel, headed by commission Chairman John Bradley, also will solicit more information regarding the state of investigation standards in 1991. A final report is expected out in October.

The Dallas Morning News reported that last year a report was prepared for the commission, wherein Craig Beyler, a fire expert, said the original investigation was so seriously flawed that the finding of arson couldn't be supported. He said the investigation didn't adhere to fire investigation standards in place at the time or to current standards.

The controversy increased in September when Governor Rick Perry replaced three members of the forensic commission, including its chairman, two days before it was to review Beyler's report.

Perry named Bradley a conservative ally and county district attorney to lead the commission, raising concerns that the inquiry would be politically influenced.
The case has gained national attention. If Willingham is proven to be innocent of the arson and murder, he will be the first innocent person executed in America during the modern era of the death penalty dating back to 1976.

Willingham's family and the Innocence Project, a legal group that specializes in overturning wrongful convictions, have been highly critical of delays in the commission's investigation, according to the Morning News.

To read more:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rendell Signs Two Execution Warrants

Governor Edward G. Rendell yesterday signed execution warrants for Anthony J. Dick, age 46, and Brentt Michael Sherwood, age 31. Both men are incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene.

Dick was sentenced in August 2007 after pleading guilty to murdering his 19-month son and four-year-old stepson in January 2006 in Columbia County. His execution date is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14.

Sherwood was sentenced to death in May 2007 for brutally beating his 4-year-old stepdaughter to death in December 2004. He is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, September 16.

Governor Rendell has signed 110 execution warrants. None of those offenders have been executed.

There are currently 231 prisoners on Death Row in Pennsylvania. Only three men have been executed in Pennsylvania during the modern era of the death penalty. All three waived their appeal rights and asked to be executed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

NC Study: Those who Kill Whites More Likely to Get Death Penalty

A study touted as one of the most comprehensive examinations to date of the modern administration of the death penalty in North Carolina found that killers of white victims are three times as likely to get the death penalty than killers of black victims, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

The researchers, Michael L. Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Glenn L. Pierce, a research scientist in the Northeastern University school of criminology and criminal justice in Boston, examined 15,281 homicides in the state between Jan. 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 2007. Their research determined that 368 of the cases reviewed resulted in death sentences.

The researchers looked at many factors, such as the number of victims and whether other crimes such as burglaries and robberies were committed during the homicide. They also tried to consider similar homicide cases.

Their analysis of the data showed that the odds of receiving a death sentence in cases where the victim was white were 2.96 times as high as the odds in cases with black victims.

Seth Edwards, a prosecutor who took over this month as president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, said after a brief review of the study that prosecutors consider many factors when deciding whether to pursue a capital homicide case.

"I strongly disagree with the implication that prosecutors base their decision to seek the ultimate punishment on the race of the victim or the defendant," Edwards said in an e-mail message to the News & Observer. "Prosecutors do not look at skin color. We consider lots of things, but race is not one of them."

To read more:

Community Policing on the Chopping Block

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, police nationwide are reexamining priorities as they grapple with layoffs, hiring freezes, furloughs and a wave of early retirements. Some departments facing such cuts feel they have little choice but to cancel community policing programs like code enforcement, neighborhood crime prevention programs and park patrols.

A number of departments have been forced to close specialized units that were devoted to community outreach, neighborhood empowerment and foot patrols. Departments that keep such units often do so with skeleton crews while working to fill vacancies department-wide.

Community oriented policing is an outgrowth of a popular philosophy in law enforcement known as the Broken Windows theory. Robert Friedmann, a professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University told the Journal Constitution that the thinking behind James Q. Wilson’s Broken Windows theory is that ignoring eyesores like graffiti and abandoned cars will drive good people out of their communities and invite criminals in.

Former New York City Transit Police Chief William Bratton introduced the Broken Window theory to Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the early 1990's. Bratton became the city’s police commissioner and ushered in an unprecedented era of declining crime rates which continues today.

The recession has forced local governments to reexamine which services are a necessity and which are a luxury. When times get tough, proactive policing takes a back seat, often to the detriment of struggling neighborhoods and the law abiding people who live in those neighborhoods.

To read more:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mississippi Executes Man for '94 Slaying

33rd Execution of 2010

Mississippi executed Joseph Daniel Burns for the 1994 murder of a motel clerk.

According to the Associated Press, Burns was given a lethal injection last evening at the State Penitentiary at Parchman. The Department of Corrections said Burns was pronounced dead at 6:50 p.m. CST.

It was Mississippi's third execution this year and 13th since reimposing the death penalty. Burns' execution marked the 1,221st execution nationwide during the modern era of the death penalty.

The Associated Press reported that Burns was convicted in 1996 and was sentenced to death for the slaying of Floyd Melvin McBride at the Town House Motel in Tupelo. Prosecutors said Burns stabbed McBride while an accomplice opened the motel safe, then the two men fled.

In the hours leading up to his scheduled execution, Burns visited with his three daughters, his mother and his sister, as well as the State Penitentiary chaplain. Burns' mother and his sister witnessed his execution.

He made no request for a last meal but ate turkey and roast beef sandwiches in the afternoon.

The execution was briefly delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court considered and then denied Burns' appeal. Gov. Haley Barbour earlier denied Burns' clemency request.

To read more:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Texas Executes Killer of Houston Opera Singers

32nd Execution of 2010

Texas carried out the 32nd execution of 2010. Derrick Jackson is the 461st person executed in Texas and 1,220th person executed nationwide during the modern era of the death penalty. He was convicted of killing two Houston opera singers nearly 22 years ago.

According to the Associated Press, Jackson declined to make a final statement before the lethal injection was administered. He proclaimed his innocence in recent media interviews. He was the 15th person to be executed in Texas this year.

Jackson contended he was unfairly convicted of the September 1988 fatal beatings and slashings of Forrest Henderson and Richard Wrotenbery. The two 31-year-old men were in the Houston Grand Opera chorus.

The slayings inside Henderson's apartment went unsolved until 1995, when a bloody fingerprint from the scene was matched to Jackson. By then, Jackson already was in prison serving a 12-year term for aggravated robbery.

To read more:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Executions Scheduled in Texas and Mississippi


Derrick Jackson, a Houston man was serving 12 years for aggravated robbery when he was convicted of a brutal double-murder in 1998.

Jackson is to be executed Tuesday, becoming the 15th killer put to death in Texas this year. Houston lawyers last week were reviewing the case but were uncertain if they would find grounds for further appeals.

"It's obvious I'm getting framed," Jackson said in a recent death row interview. "I'm not your bad guy. People who know me know I'm a good guy."


Joseph D. Burns, facing execution by lethal injection Wednesday, asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to stop his execution. Burns was convicted in 1996 in the stabbing death of a Tupelo motel manager committed during a robbery two years earlier.

If Burns dies Wednesday, he will be Mississippi's third execution this year and the third from Northeast Mississippi since 2008 -- others are Earl Wesley Berry of Chickasaw County and Dale Leo Bishop of Guntown.

Ten of the state's 61 death row prisoners are there for capital crimes committed in Northeast Mississippi.

To read more about Jackson:

To read more about Burns:

Juvenile Offenders Seek Review of Life Sentences

Pennsylvania leads the nation with more than 450 inmates serving life without parole for killings they committed as juveniles. Last week was the deadline for Pennsylvania offenders convicted as juveniles and serving life terms who have already exhausted appeals to seek a review of their convictions.

The opportunities arose when the U.S. Supreme Court banned life without parole for juvenile nonhomicide offenders. In Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. ___ (2010), the high court held that Terrance Graham, who was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile for a burglary and robbery, is entitled to some opportunity to have his sentence reviewed for the purpose of release. In doing so the Court held that “the Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide.”

Attorneys in Philadelphia, citing the Supreme Court ruling, have filed petitions on behalf of five offenders who were juveniles when they were sentenced to life in prison in Pennsylvania.

According to the Associated Press, most juveniles serving life, more than 90-percent nationally and all of those in Pennsylvania were convicted of murder, which was not addressed in the Graham ruling. But advocates cite language in the ruling saying juveniles have limited moral culpability because adolescent brains are less fully developed.

Attorney Bradley Bridge told the Associated Press, "We are not suggesting here that any of these people should automatically be released . . . all we are contending is that they should be entitled to be considered for parole. They should have the opportunity to prove that they have learned and grown and changed."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oakland Police Will Only Investigate Violent Crime

According to the San Francisco Chronicle ,the City of Oakland police department will no longer respond to investigate crimes such as burglary, prowling, restraining order violations, runaways or a host of other "non-violent" offenses.

Last week, the city laid off 80 officers to help eliminate a $30.5 million budget deficit, prompting the department to announce that officers would no longer be dispatched to take investigate or take reports for most nonviolent crimes. "With current levels of staffing, we are unable to respond to many lower-priority calls," said Officer Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.

Instead, Oakland residents now have to file certain crime reports online or visit a police station. Those without a computer can ask that a blank form be mailed to them or pick one up at a library. Residents can still call 911 to report emergencies and crimes such as shootings, robberies, rapes and assaults.

It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this decision has on crime. Oakland's efforts, or lack there of, seem to fly in the face of New York City's very successful crime fighting efforts. New York followed the "Broken Window" theory that introduced aggressive prosecution and enforcement of minor crimes as a means to influencing over-all crime rates. New York's crime rate has fallen at an unprecedented rate.

To read more:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Commission: Judge Casts Public Discredit on the Judiciary

Texas Judge Sharon Keller, the state's highest criminal appeals court judge, displayed conduct that "casts public discredit on the judiciary" according to a report by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

In 2007, Judge Keller refused to have the clerk's office work past 5 p.m. to permit the last minute filing of a stay of execution for Michael Wayne Richard. The stay was not received and Richard was executed.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 19-page document sharply rebuked Keller for her handling of the case, saying that her conduct violated legal standards for her office and effectively closed off last-minute legal avenues for inmate Michael Wayne Richard, who was executed by lethal injection at 8:23 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007.

"Judge Keller's conduct on Sept. 25, 2007, did not accord Richard access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law," said the commission. "Judge Keller's conduct constitutes willful or persistent conduct that casts public discredit on the judiciary or the administration of justice." According to the Star-Telegram, the commission said Keller's behavior violated the Texas Constitution, the Texas Government Code and the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.

In spite of the strong rebuke, the judicial oversight commission chose the least severe public sanction against Keller -- a public warning -- opting against more severe recommendations, including calling for her removal from the bench.

Read more:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ohio Man Executed for the Murder of Five Children

31st Execution of 2010

William L. Garner was executed by lethal injection on July 13, 2010. He was convicted in 1992 of killing five children in a fire he started to cover-up a burglary. Gardner is the 1,219th executed in the United States since the reimpostion of the death penalty in the 1970's.

The Cincinnati Enquirer described Garner's execution as follows:

William Garner glanced over at his niece, a soft smile breaking his face as the first of the five syringes of a lethal drug were pumped into his arm at 10:21 a.m. Tuesday in the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Garner, 37, who grew up with the name “Peewee,” was the 382nd person to be executed in Ohio since the state began executions in 1803. The state has an execution scheduled each month through November.

Garner has spent nearly half his life on death row after killing five children in an English Woods townhouse on Jan. 26, 1992, when he set three fires to cover up a burglary. Garner, however, appeared at peace with his condemnation. If he was scared, he showed no sign. He turned his head to the left, staring into the eyes of his niece Martisha Ross for long periods.

While strapped to a wooden gurney, Garner held a dreadlock of hair from a friend in his left hand and read from a hand-written note held up by an official. He apologized to the six family members of victims who were there to witness the execution, separated from the killer by about four feet and a glass window. “If this will give you closure, I hope it will,” he said. Garner thanked the state of Ohio, his spiritual advisers and friend Stacy Evans who gave him a clipping of her dreadlock to hold as he died. Garner’s voice cracked once as he said his goodbyes, but he never lost his composure. “I thought I’d never be free, but I am free now,” he said.

No one spoke as he was dying until the warden broke the silence. “Time of death, 10:38 a.m.,” Warden Donald Morgan called out when the curtain opened at 10:39 a.m. The people in the three witness rooms remained silent as they were ushered out.

Garner was sentenced to death for killing the children in the home of Addie Mack after he stole her purse from a phone booth at University Hospital and broke into her apartment. During the 40 minutes inside the witness rooms, Mack, who lost three daughters in the fire, turned a few times to look at her son, Rod Mack, the only one to survive the fire. About 10 anti-death penalty advocates stood in the drizzling rain during the execution.

Up to the moment of his death, Garner, who has an IQ of 76 and was considered borderline retarded, maintained he never intended for the children to die, and was only trying to cover up the fact that he stole a television set, a VCR, a boom box and phone from the home. Rod Mack jumped from the window and was found shivering in the snow when emergency crews arrived. He told the police he heard his sisters screaming. The girls died huddled together. Garner took a cab from the apartment to a United Dairy Farmers where he bought Hawaiian Punch, a jelly cake and candy.

For his last meal at the Death House on Monday, Garner also had Hawaiian Punch and an assortment of food that included a Porterhouse steak, barbeque chicken and ribs, sweet potato pie, fried shrimp and chocolate ice cream.

Garner declined the standard prison breakfast Tuesday morning, as well as a sedative, in the hours before his death. He spent the early morning hours with his mother, Patricia Garner, his sister Lisa Ross, his friend Evans, spiritual leaders, the defense counsel and his niece – the only person to witness his death on his behalf. “He is finally at peace and that was very important,” his older sister Ross said after his death. She said she hoped the family members of sisters Denitra Satterwhite, 12, Deondra Freeman, 10, Mykia Mack, 8; the girls’ cousin Markeca Mason, 11, and neighbor Richard Gaines, also 11, could one day forgive him.

Marshandra Jackson, who lost her daughter Markeca, quietly wept during the 40-minute process that started with prep-work and the insertion of two shunts while Garner was in his holding cell. The preparations were broadcast into the witness rooms through video monitors. He then took 17 steps into the death chamber and climbed on the gurney.

Garner arrived in Lucasville on Monday, a place where he first was admitted to death row all those years ago when the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility sent people to death by the electric chair. The prison at the time was the only one in the state to house death row inmates. Much has changed since then.

The electric chair has since been replaced first with a lethal cocktail of drugs and then more recently to the sole drug Thiopental Sodium. Garner, who sentenced shortly after he turned 20, had been housed at the Mansfield Correctional Facility since 1995, where he lived alone in a 94-square-foot cell. When not in trouble, he was permitted out of his cell for up to 2½ hours a day.

Garner found trouble, though. Reports from the correction department say he was cited 13 times for infractions ranging from having sex with inmates to throwing fluids on workers to violent outbursts and fighting.

Garner and his twin Willie, who were born on Sept. 26, 1972, went by the names Peewee and Pappy, respectively. Garner suffered abuse and got into trouble early, court records show. At the age of 5, he kicked a teacher and threw temper tantrums. Garner was beaten by his mother and her boyfriends, as well as by a brother who had sexually assaulted him, according to court records.

That brother was picked up on a warrant Tuesday as he stood outside the prison walls before the execution. The infraction was that he allegedly failed to register as a sex offender in Hamilton County. Garner started getting in trouble with the law at the age of 10. He failed the second-, fourth- and sixth-grades, court records say. There were theft charges, criminal trespass and another theft charge all before his 11th birthday. Many followed ranging from breaking and entering, to assault to disorderly conduct.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Article Debunks Connection Between Immigration and Crime

A recent article written by Florida International University Professor Ramiro Martinez, Jr. and published in The Criminologist entitled Crime and Immigration further debunks the idea that immigration legislation like that in Arizona will reduce crime.

Professor Martinez writes:

A prominent claim by politicians and anti-immigrant supporters is that SB 1070 is needed to fight immigrant crime given rising levels of violence. There is little if any systematic evidence to support this claim. Violent crime reported to the police and measured in victimization surveys has plummeted across the country since at least 1995 and that decrease is evident in places with large Latino and immigrant populations including the city of Phoenix Arizona (Phoenix Police Department, 2010; for more see Sampson 2008). In a forthcoming Criminology & Public Policy article, Lauritsen and Heimer (2010) report that serious violence victimization rates among White, Black and Latino males are several times lower now than when the National Crime Victimization Survey began in 1973 – trends made all the more remarkable when considered in the context of the dramatic rise in immigration over the past four decades.

The article also examines the premise that the communities on the border of Mexico are more violent than other non-border communities. Actually the opposite is true. Professor Martinez writes:

Some immigration opponents imply that the southwestern border is a dangerous place due to its location and proximity to Mexico. Again, empirical evidence raises doubt that the border is a hyper violent place (Martinez 2010). Consider the state of Texas
which shares the longest stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico. A recent examination of county-level homicide data demonstrates Texas border counties have significantly lower homicide rates than non-border counties and Texas counties with higher levels of immigration concentration had lower levels of homicide. Not only are Latino homicide rates lower in these areas, so are those of non-Latino Whites and Blacks. No compelling support was found for the claim that border areas are more violent due to proximity or immigration (Martinez 2010).

To read full report:

Lower Crime Rates: “It Not Complicate—Prosecute and Incarcerate”

The overall crime rate in North Carolina dropped 8.8 percent in 2009, while violent crime was down 12.5 percent compared with 2008. The decline is the sharpest single-year drop in crime rates since North Carolina began statewide crime reporting in 1973, according to The News and Observer.

Statewide, murders fell 19.1 percent, while robberies were down 17.6 percent and aggravated assaults dropped 10.7 percent. All categories of property crime also fell, led by motor vehicle thefts, which were down 25.8 percent.

According to The News and Observer, North Carolina's drop in overall crime mirrors a national trend, said Jeff Welty, an assistant professor of public law and government with the School of Government at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In May the FBI reported a 5 percent reduction nationally in violent and property crimes between 2008 and 2009, Welty said.

Welty said the reasons for the drop in crime are a subject of intense dispute. He said some observers say it's as simple as an aging U.S. population. "Most crimes are committed by younger people," he told The News and Observer.

Welty said others, like North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, credit newer and more efficient policing strategies and longer prison sentences for violent offenders, who cannot commit crimes because they are already locked up.

George Holding, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina told The News & Observer, "It's not complicated," he said. "Prosecute and incarcerate."

To read more:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Holder: Prisons Do Little to Prepare Inmates for the Streets

This week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed a Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) conference in New Orleans. He focused his attention on two issues--reentry and evidence based practices. Here are some excerpts from Attorney General Holder's speech:

Although PSN has helped to secure many important convictions, it’s also shown that we can’t simply arrest our way out of the problem of violent crime. Of course, incarceration is necessary for public safety. But it’s only partially responsible for the declining crime rates we’ve seen. It’s not a sole, economically sustainable, solution.

Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet, at a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they’re released. People who have been incarcerated are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers and surrounded by others in similar circumstances. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years. It’s time for a new approach.

Effective reentry programs provide our best chance for safeguarding our neighborhoods and supporting people who have served their time and are also resolved to improve their lives.

I’m proud that, last year, the Justice Department distributed $28 million in reentry awards under the Second Chance Act. And I’m pleased that we have another $100 million available for reentry programs this year.

Finally, we must meet this problem with all the resources that sound science can bring to bear. Restoring scientific decision-making at the Justice Department is one of my highest priorities. And while research has told us much about the incidence and impact of violence, it hasn’t yet told us everything. We need more information about what works – and what doesn’t – so that we can make informed funding decisions and identify community-specific strategies.

For entire speech:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Legislators Fear Being Called Soft More than Prison Crowding

The Louisville Courier-Journal blasted the Kentucky legislature for failing to address prison overcrowding, "Legislators should stop ignoring prison overcrowding for fear of looking soft on crime and start working toward a rational solution."

Kentucky's inmate population -- now at roughly 21,000 -- is growing at a faster rate than any other state's, and the need for action increases every day. The newspaper was critical of the state's partnership with private prisons. The Courier-Journal wrote, "The facts are that private vendors compromise safety and security to keep down costs," Michele Deitch, an attorney and University of Texas criminal justice professor, said. "They save money by hiring inexperienced staff at the low end of the wage scale. When you've got inexperienced, poorly trained staff, you've got a recipe for security and safety problems in a prison."

Although some suggest that Kentucky could not provide for adequate public safety without private prisons--the Courier-Journal fired back--"But everyone seems to be ignoring the elephant -- or tens of thousands of prisoners -- in the room: the need to amend sentencing laws for nonviolent offenders. Kentucky doesn't need more prison space; it needs fewer inmates. "

To read more:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Inmates Requests Execution, Defenders Argue Competence

A Pennsylvania district attorney has challenged the authority of two federal public defenders representing a death row inmate who asked Governor Ed Rendell to be executed.

According to the Altoona Mirror,the federal public defenders, Anna Ahronheim and Kirk J. Henderson, were appointed last year to represent William L. Wright III by U.S. District Judge David Cercone of Pittsburgh, who received letters from Wright. Wright was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of James Mowery.

In a petition filed in March, the public defenders reported that based on observations and discussions with Wright's relatives and mental health experts, they have reason to believe that Wright is mentally incompetent. It would appear that the public defenders are seeking to challenge Wright's execution pursuant to Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399(1986). In Ford, the Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibited the execution of an insane offender and that the offender had the right to a judicial hearing to determine his competence to be executed.

The Mirror reported, Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio has challenged the post-conviction petition filed on behalf of Wright by the public defenders. The DA suggested that Wright's actions in 2008 and 2009, when he showed no interest in appealing his case and no interest in being represented by federal public defenders indicated his intentions.

After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Wright's conviction and death penalty sentence in December of 2008, Wright wrote to Governor Ed Rendell and asked to be executed. Rendell signed an execution warrant, setting Wright's execution for September 3, 2009. That order was stayed in July 2009 when the public defenders were appointed.

To read more:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Death, Mental Illness and the U.S. Supreme Court

Justices have slated a review of diminished responsibility and capital punishment

The Pennsylvania Law Weekly
July 12, 2010

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that deals with the burgeoning issue of mental illness and the death penalty.

In Cullen v. Pinholster, the court will not directly deal with the issue of whether a severely mentally ill person should be subject to the death penalty. Instead, it will decide whether the appellant should get a new penalty hearing because his counsel was ineffective for failing to present appellant's mental illness as a mitigating factor at the original penalty phase hearing.

The more fundamental question — should a severely mentally ill person be subject to the death penalty — has remained unresolved.

In the last decade, the Supreme Court established two groups, juveniles and the mentally retarded, that have, by the nature of their condition, diminished responsibility and are categorically exempt from the application of the death penalty.

The categorical approach was used to ban the death penalty for the mentally retarded in a 2002 case, Atkins v. Virginia; the execution of juveniles in a 2005 case, Roper v. Simmons; the death penalty for nonhomicide offenses in a 2008 case, Kennedy v. Louisiana; and, earlier this year, life without parole for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide offenses, Graham v. Florida.

The analysis for the categorical approach begins with "indicia of national consensus." The court relied on legislative action in both Atkins and Roper when it noted that 35 states had abolished the death penalty for the mentally retarded and juveniles. At the time the court decided Kennedy, 45 states prohibited capital punishment for all offenses except first degree murder.

However, the court in Graham acknowledged but rejected Florida's suggestion that there was no national consensus against juvenile life without parole because only six states ban life in prison for juveniles.

The court held that "there are measures of consensus other than legislation."

The court may need to take that same approach if it decides to review the propriety of applying the death penalty to those deemed severely mentally ill at the time of their offense.

Prohibiting the death penalty for the seriously mentally ill is not a new idea.

The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, the American Bar Association, the National Alliance on Mentally Illness, Mental Health America and the National Disability Rights Network have all adopted policies calling for the abolition of the death penalty for the seriously mentally ill. A 2002 Gallup Poll found that 75 percent of Americans oppose executing offenders with serious mental illness.

Connecticut is the only state that prohibits executing an offender who is mentally ill. In Connecticut General Statute § 53a-46a (h)(3) (2009), a capital defendant is exempt from execution if his "mental capacity was significantly impaired or his ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was significantly impaired but not so impaired in either case as to constitute a defense to prosecution."

Other states — including Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee — have proposed legislation to exempt offenders with severe mental illness from facing the death penalty.

Will the U.S. Supreme Court, applying the reasoning set forth in Atkins and Roper, ban the death penalty for the mentally ill?

While there are some similarities between mental retardation, maturity and mental illness with regard to cognitive ability, there are also some obvious differences. Namely, how to distinguish between those with diminished capacity and those who are laboring under a mental defect that is not consequential with regard to culpability or deterability.

In banning the execution of juveniles, the court established an easily ascertainable bright line rule that no one under 18 years old will be subject to the death penalty.

The issue with regard to mental retardation is a little more difficult. The court did not establish a bright line rule. Instead of finding that anyone with an IQ under 70 would not be subject to the death penalty, the court deferred to individual states to establish their own criteria.

How might severe mental illness be determined?

A look at the court's analysis in prior decisions dealing with mental illness and execution is instructive.

In 1986, the court in Ford v. Wainwright ruled on a mentally ill offender's competence to be executed. Alvin Ford was convicted in 1974 of killing a police officer and was sentenced to death. While on death row, Ford developed paranoid schizophrenia, according to the opinion.

The court ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibited the execution of an insane offender and that Ford had the right to a judicial hearing to determine his competence to be executed, according to the opinion.

However, the Ford decision neither defined competence for execution nor did it mandate specific procedures that must be followed by individual states to determine whether an inmate is legally insane. The result has been different standards in different states.

A more recent decision by the court in 2007 in Panetti v. Quaterman found that criminal defendants sentenced to death may not be executed if they do not understand the reason for their imminent execution; and that once the state has set an execution date, death-row inmates may litigate their competency to be executed in habeas corpus proceedings.

The decision reaffirmed the court's prior holdings in Ford.

Though the Panetti decision did not directly deal with mental illness at the time of offending, it does shed light on the analysis the court might use in cases of mental illness at the time of the offense.

As compared to legal insanity — where an accused does not appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions or simply that they are wrong — the Panetti holding requires a seemingly less restrictive burden — the presence of gross delusions or cognitive defects that impact the offender's appreciation for the wrongfulness of his conduct — according to Bruce J. Winick in The Supreme Court's Emerging Death Penalty Jurisprudence: Severe Mental Illness as the Next Frontier.

The court, once again, left the exact definition to individual states as it did in Atkins regarding mental retardation.

The court's near silence on the issue of the death penalty and mental illness at the time of the offense has left state courts with some rather unusual options.

In 2004, Arkansas executed Charles Singleton, a schizophrenic who was drugged in order to ensure his competency to be executed pursuant to Ford. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Arkansas could forcibly medicate Singleton and the Supreme Court refused to hear Singleton's appeal.

Two years ago in Pennsylvania, state Supreme Court concluded in Commonwealth v. Sam that forced medication of a n offender to determine whether he wished to pursue relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act, or PCRA, following his death sentence did not violate the federal due process clause.

Inducing competency seems akin to keeping an offender on life support so that he can be executed two months down the road.

The U.S. Supreme Court needs to address the issue of serious mental illness and capital punishment if those states that mete out death are going to do so in a fair and consistent manner.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Juvenile Crime Up, Charging as an Adult Down

A new report, Juvenile Court Statistics 2006-2007, by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, found a significant decrease in the number of juvenile cases being transferred to adult court by a judge. It is not clear whether the report took into consideration those cases that are required by legislation to be filed in adult court without review by a judge. In Pennsylvania, there are a number of offenses that require charging a juvenile as an adult.

In 1994, 13,100 juvenile cases were transferred to adult court. In 2007, 8,500 cases were transferred.

The troubling aspect of the report--if there is a correlation between juvenile crime and charging as an adult--is that juvenile violent crime has increased between 2003 and 2007. Robbery is up 35-percent. Homicide is up 5-percent. These two categories have pushed violent crime up 13-percent.

To read the full report:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Texas' Top Criminal Judge Awaits Fate From Conduct Board

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has concluded a hearing looking into the conduct of Judge Sharon Keller. Judge Keller is the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, making her the top criminal judge in the state.

In 2007, Judge Keller refused to have the clerk's office work past 5 p.m. to permit the last minute filing of a stay of execution for Michael Wayne Richard. The stay was not received and Richard was executed.

The Wall Street Journal describes the controversy surrounding the appeal of Richard, a convicted murderer, as beginning with a decision from the U.S. Supreme court on Sept. 25, 2007.

The high court had agreed to hear a separate case involving whether lethal injection, the execution method used in Texas, constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Ultimately, the Supreme Court found in Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35(2008), that the three-drug lethal injection method did not violate the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

Richard was due to be executed on September 25, his attorneys at the Texas Defenders Service drafted a stay, citing the new Supreme Court announcement. They planned to file the request with the Court of Criminal Appeals. At about 4:40 p.m., a paralegal at the Texas Defenders Service called a clerk at the court to inquire whether they could file their motion after 5 p.m.

Judge Keller declined to keep the clerk's office open late, according to findings by a special master appointed last year by the Texas Supreme Court. The stay was never received.

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct adjourned without a decision and offered no timetable for a ruling. The 13-member commission is made up of six judges, two attorneys and five public members. The commission cannot remove Keller from the bench, but must forward its recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court. The commission has the authority to publicly censure Keller if they find her conduct worthy of some reprimand.

to read more:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Controversial Familial DNA Used to Find Grim Sleeper

California Attorney General Jerry Brown praised police for the arrest of Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. the alleged serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper". Authorities said a DNA match from a database Brown pushed tied Franklin to the killings, and the attorney general said the case demonstrates the value of the controversial tool known as familial DNA.

Brown said California's familial DNA search program led to the identification and arrest of Franklin.

According to CNN, the program -- which was enacted in 2008 against opposition from civil rights groups -- uses the DNA of family members to find suspects in cases of great risk to the public, Brown's office said in a press release. "We're going to fight to protect this technology, and next week my office will be in court defending another form of DNA technology."

Franklin was tabbed the Grim Sleeper because of the nearly 14 years he took off between murders. Using the DNA of one of Franklin's family members, who had been convicted of a felony weapons charge, investigators established a familial connection between the family member and DNA collected at the murder scenes, according to DNA. That connection was used to identify and arrest Franklin after his DNA was obtained.

"This arrest provides proof positive that familial DNA searches must be a part of law enforcement's crime-fighting arsenal. Although the adoption of this new state policy was unprecedented and controversial, in certain cases, it is the only way to bring a dangerous killer to justice," Brown told CNN. Brown is the former governor of California and is running for governor again this year.

To read more:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Too Hot for Crime?

Research Indicates Crime Stagnates at Fahrenheit 90

Crime researchers and police both say that violent crimes rise with the temperature. But once the reading reaches a certain level - about 90 degrees - researchers have found that violent-crime rates drop.

James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Boston's Northeastern University who has studied the relationship between crime and temperature told the Columbus Dispatch, "When it gets to the point of being unbearable, people don't fight, they withdraw."

In his study, which used data from 2007, Fox found that violent crime was most common in the mid- and upper 80s and that it was least common in cool weather. According to the Dispatch, his findings are backed by laboratory experiments showing that physiological changes make people more aggressive in high temperatures.

Fox's study found that violent crime peaked in May but remained high throughout the summer.

To read more:

Iran Set to Carry-Out Execution by Stoning

An Iranian woman has been sentenced to death by stoning. The sentence calls for Sakineh Ashtiani, a 42 year old mother, to first be buried up to her chest, according to the Iranian penal code. Stones will then be hurled at her that are large enough to cause pain but not so large as to kill her immediately.

According to CNN, Ashtiani was forced to confess to adultery after being subjected to 99 lashes, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei said Thursday in a telephone interview from Tehran.

She later retracted that confession and has denied wrongdoing. Her conviction was based not on evidence but on the determination of three out of five judges, Mostafaei said. She has asked forgiveness from the court but the judges refused to grant clemency. The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

Mina Ahadi, told CNN that only an international campaign designed to pressure the Islamic regime in Tehran could save Ashtiani's life.

"Legally, it's all over," said Ahadi, who heads the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty. "It's a done deal. Sakineh can be stoned at any minute."

To read more:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

DOJ: Local Jail Deaths Increased Between 2000-2007

Press Release
Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
July 7, 2010

Mortality rates in local jails declined over the period from 2000 through 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today. A total of 8,110 jail inmates died in custody of local jails over the study period, during which the mortality rate declined from 152 deaths per 100,000 jail inmates in 2000 to 141 per 100,000 in 2007.

During any given year of the eight-year study, more than 80 percent of the approximately 3,000 jail jurisdictions nationwide had no deaths in their custody. During the entire eight-year study period, more than four in 10 jails (42 percent) had no deaths. Among jails reporting at least one death during the entire study period, the majority (83 percent) reported only one death.

Suicide was the single leading cause of death in local jails, accounting for 29 percent of all jail deaths. Between 2000 and 2007, the suicide rate declined from 48 to 36 per 100,000, continuing a longer decline from 129 per 100,000 in 1983.

Deaths from any illness-related cause accounted for more than half (53 percent) of all deaths in local jails. Heart disease was the single leading illness-related cause of death, accounting for 22 percent of all deaths in local jails. Deaths from AIDS-related causes accounted for five percent of all deaths in jails.

During the eight-year period, the largest jails (those with an average daily population of 1,000 inmates or more) held 49 percent of the total jail population and accounted for 52 percent of all deaths in jails. The smallest jails (those with an average daily population of fewer than 50 inmates) held four percent of the jail population and accounted for seven percent of jail deaths.

Smaller jails had the highest mortality rates largely due to suicide. In jails holding an average of fewer than 50 inmates, the mortality rate of 284 per 100,000 inmates was almost twice the national average (145 per 100,000). Suicide rates were highest in smallest jails (169 per 100,000) and lowest in the 50 largest jails (27 per 100,000).

Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of jail deaths occurred within two days of admission; more than one-third (38 percent) within the first seven days; and more than half (56 percent) within 30 days.

Suicide rates in jails were more than three times higher than in the general population. Between 2000 and 2006, when comparable data were available, suicide was the only cause of death that occurred at a higher rate in local jails than in the general population (47 per 100,000 vs 13 per 100,000), after adjusting for differences associated with age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin.

BJS collected these data on deaths in local jails in response to the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) (P.L. 106-297). DICRA required the collection of individual-level records of deaths occuring in jails, in state prisons and during the process of arrest. BJS collects data on deaths in local jails and in state prisons through its Deaths in Custody Reporting Program and on arrest-related deaths through its Arrest-Related Deaths collection.

The report, Mortality in Local Jails, 2000-2007 (NCJ 222988), was written by BJS statistician Margaret Noonan. Following publication, the report can be found at

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at

# # #

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at

Prison Outlook: More Inmates, Less Staff

History Suggests It is a Recipe for Disaster

One out of about every 40 Oklahoma adults is under some form of correctional control. There are now more inmates and fewer staff than ever in the history of the Oklahoma Department Corrections. Add to the mix summer heat and program and visitation cuts and it becomes a volatile combination for an under funded prison system.

"This is a crisis,” Corrections Director Justin Jones told the Daily Oklahoman. "We have every ingredient for a very dangerous recipe. Our job is to make sure it doesn't cook up.”

According to the Oklahoman, during the past fiscal year, the number of inmates in Oklahoma increased by 737, bringing the total to 24,849. About 180 staff members were lost to buyouts. The 4,364 remaining staff will be required to take 23 mandatory furlough days starting this month. In August and September, another 119 employees are expected to take buyouts.

My Take

This scenario is being played out in state capitols across the country. Prisoner counts expand while corrections budgets constrict. History tells us that this is a dangerous proposition.

In the summer and fall of 1989, inmates at Pennsylvania's Camp Hill State Correctional Institution were unhappy about overcrowding and suspended privileges. At the time, Camp Hill's capacity was 1,826 but the facility housed more then 2,600 inmates running at a 142% of capacity.

On October 25th, a three day riot erupted. On the first day, the rioters took at least 8 hostages, started several fires and caused millions of dollars in damage. More then 40 staff members, inmates, police and firefighters were injured.

The worst uprising in Pennsylvania history continued for a second day. The superintendent was meeting with inmates when day two of rioting began. The inmates took another 17 hostages and injured 138 officers. About 800 Pennsylvania State Troopers responded and ultimately put down the riot by force after negotiations on day three failed.

Are prisons across the country facing a summer of discontent? Can fewer guards oversee more prisoner? How will prisoners react to suspended programming opportunities or less privileges due to budget cuts? Prison is a dangerous place even with the tightest controls, what will prison be like without the resources to manage it effectively?

Read more:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chicago Police Do More with Less

The City of Chicago is down 800 police officers. The sputtering economy has had an impact on the city's finances and the police department has not been spared the ill effect of dwindling resources. The understaffed Chicago police department now enters July, typically the deadliest month of the year, with less manpower and declining firepower.

What the police do have on their side is some brainpower. According to the Chicago Tribune, the police are revamping their crime fighting strategies. "We were looking for a new way of doing business," said Police Superintendent Jody Weis. "We are down some officers, yet we have to provide the best service."

Weis recently restructured how the department deploys officers to hot spots — in part a response to the fact that the department has been decimated by retirement and a stalled hiring process.

The Tribune reported that officers working in district offices and at headquarters have been sent to the streets to increase patrols. Police have added officers to special units that swarm neighborhoods when crime breaks out. And officers' shift start times were adjusted according to the most violent times.

The department's most significant undertaking, is the manner in which police administrators deploy officers. Police, in Chicago, are increasingly trying to predict where crime is likely to occur and to flood those hot spots with additional police personel.

Hot spots are areas within a city or community where there is a higher likelihood that criminal activity is going to take place. Crime does not occur evenly throughout a community. With limited crime fighting resources it would be counterproductive to try and spread law enforcement resources thinly across a entire community. Analyze the data, determine where the crime hot spots are located, and assign a more significant presence in those spots.

Arthur Lurigio, professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University, told the Tribune, sending extra resources to hot spots — especially when done based on crime stats and data — is the correct strategy.

To read more:,0,2944636.story?page=2

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Only 1 in 10 Would Pay Higher Taxes to Fund Prisons

As state lawmakers across the country continue to slash programs and services it is important to take a look at what citizens think about taxes and services. A survey conducted earlier this year by the Public Policy Institute of California, found that Californians want to cut prison spending and spare schools funding.

When asked which of the four main areas of state spending they would most want to protect from budget cuts, 58 percent choose K–12 public education. Fewer choose health and human services (17%) or higher education (15%). Far fewer choose prisons and corrections (6%). Californians back up these views when asked if they would be willing to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding for these areas:

•K–12 public education: 66 percent yes, 32 percent no
•Higher education: 50 percent yes, 48 percent no
•Health and human services: 50 percent yes, 47 percent no
•Prisons and corrections: 11 percent yes, 87 percent no

Two out of three people would pay more taxes to fund education and only 1 in 10 would pay more for prison spending.

To read more:

Predictve analysis emerges as promising crime fighter

Youngstown Vindicator
Sunday, July 4, 2010

As many states face a third consecutive year of budget deficits, an increasing number of state employees face layoff or even job loss, which not so long ago would have seemed as unlikely as a 138 game set at Wimbledon.

Included in those quickly vanishing state jobs are police officers. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is set to leave office with fewer troopers on the payroll than when he took office. The Ohio State Highway Patrol Mission Review Task Force is looking at options, including staff reductions, to reduce the $319 million highway patrol budget. The problem is dire in other states. Illinois will lay off 460 state troopers. Michigan has eliminated 100 state police jobs. Tennessee has fewer troopers than in 1977.

Law enforcement agencies are looking for means, other than boots on the ground, to keep a handle on a crime rate that is at its lowest point in nearly 45 years. An area that is generating some attention is the development of cutting-edge crime prediction analysis.

Most police departments tout their clearance rates—the percentage of crimes solved by the department. The ability to predict crime brings law enforcement to a whole new level—stopping the potential criminal before he commits a crime. To carry out that mission, the police must have an idea when, where, and by whom a crime may be committed.

The concept of predictive analysis derives from sophisticated computer models that sort historical data, identify trends, make correlations, and fuse all the information together. Some agencies are cooperating with the private sector and academia to establish systems to support effective predictive analysis.


The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is using predictive analysis to improve its screening and placement process. Using an analytics system developed by IBM, FDJJ will analyze key predictors such as past offense history, home life environment, gang affiliation and peer associations to better predict which young offenders are at a higher risk to re-offend.

With that information, FDJJ can more effectively place specific segments of juveniles into the best programs for rehabilitation. For example, juveniles identified as having a high risk to re-offend can be placed in a more restrictive environment where treatment can be intense. Young offenders with a low risk of re-offending can be assigned to less restrictive supervision.

Researchers at UCLA believe they have developed a math model to help police predict and eliminate emerging crime hot spots—areas that have an increasing likelihood for criminal activity. “We can actually define where you get hot spots and where you won’t,” Jeffrey Brantingham, a UCLA associate professor of anthropology who has been working to define crime patterns,said. The Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments have used UCLA’s work in predictive analysis.

The Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom uses predictive analytics developed by IBM to assess the likelihood of prisoners re-offending upon their release to help improve public safety. With predictive technology, the Ministry of Justice is analyzing hidden trends and patterns within the data. Predictive analysis has helped identify whether offenders with specific problems such as drug and alcohol abuse are more likely to reoffend than other prisoners.

The Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania to establish a predictive tool for murder. Professor Richard Berk has focused on ways to distinguish probationers most likely to be charged with murder. According to Penn Professor Lawrence Sherman, Berk’s analysis can identify APPD probationers who are up to 42 times more likely, on average, to be charged with murder than other probationers. The model created by Penn forecasts homicide risk among individual probationers and parolees using statistical methods similar to those employed in hurricane forecasting.

Predictive analysis is no longer science fiction. The ability to predict crime hot spots and identify offenders with a high risk of re-offending has the potential to reduce crime, make neighborhoods safer and citizens less prone to victimization.

Find article here:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Texas Executes Man for 2001 Murder

30th Execution of 2010

Michael James Perry was was pronounced dead at 11:17 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, 2010 in Huntsville, Texas. He was executed by lethal injection. Perry was the 14th inmate executed in Texas and the 30th in the United States this year.

Perry was convicted of murdering Sandra Stolter a nurse during a 2001 car-jacking. He shot Stolter in the back with a shotgun. He was also present when Stolter's son was murdered along with a friend.

Perry confessed to the killing, he told the police after his arrest, "I know it's the needle and I want to save everybody the trouble and just confess."

He later recanted his confession and denied the offense until the bitter end,'I'm not supposed to be here,'" he told The Associated Press from death row. "I try not to focus on it (execution)." he said. "I focus on my case, the Bible, my family."

The next execution scheduled in the United States is that of Ohio's William Gardner. He is scheduled for execution on July 13, 2010.

To read more:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ohio Implements Major Criminal Justice Reforms

There are three major criminal justice reforms set to take effect this month in the state of Ohio. Professor Mark Godsey of the University of Cincinnati told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "This is the biggest year for criminal justice reform in the state of Ohio in a long time and possibly forever." Godsey spearheaded the reforms as director of Ohio Innocence Project.

The reform package includes:

1. Open-discovery, that requires prosecutors to share more information up front than in the past, including police reports, witness statements and expert witness reports.

2. A new procedure for police to use when interacting with eye witnesses. Enhanced use of video-taping when eliciting confessions and a law requiring preservation of homicide and sexual assault evidence for 30 years.

3. Collection of DNA samples from all offenders convicted of a felony.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Texas Stays Mentally Ill Offender's Execution

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a stay of execution four hours before convicted child rapist and murderer Jonathan Marcus Green was to enter the death chamber in Huntsville on grounds Green needs reassessment of his mental competency, according to AHN News.

Green’s attorney had argued that his client is suffering from schizophrenia making him ineligible for execution under the law.

On June 21, 2000, the 42-year-old Green was found guilty of killing 12-year-old Christine LeAnn Neal of Montgomery County after raping her.

Green grabbed the girl while she was walking home in Dobbin and raped her before strangling the girl to death. He then buried her body in his backyard.

Green dug up the body later and transferred it inside his home, where police discovered it inside a laundry bag.

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